Frequently Asked Questions
How do I buy a TCLB property?
Anyone who is interested in purchasing a TCLB property must schedule a visit to view the property and complete a property purchase application. Applicants must submit proof of secured funding in an amount sufficient to cover all acquisition costs and all renovation costs and a description of how they plan to renovate and maintain the property.
TCLB will provide a Property Assessment Report to use as a starting point for determining what repairs will be needed. Applicants are welcome to bring a contractor or inspector with them to property visits to help them complete their renovation plan. TCLB properties are generally sold “as-is” and so applicants should consider all potential repairs when preparing the renovation plan. If the property will be used as a rental, a rental management plan is also required.
For more information, a detailed, step-by-step description of our application process can be found here.
How are applications reviewed and evaluated?
After your application is submitted, TCLB staff will review it for completeness and follow up to collect any pieces of information that are missing. Complete applications must be received at least 14 days before the next scheduled Board Meeting to be guaranteed for review at that meeting.
If a complete application is reviewed and considered eligible, a summary of the application will be shared with the Advisory Committee and Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will vote on whether to accept the application at the next scheduled monthly meeting. The Board considers offer amount, strength of redevelopment plan, intended use, offer amount, buyer’s capacity to complete necessary repairs, and community goals when evaluating an application.
After the Board of Directors makes a decision about a property application, the applicant will receive notice. If your application is not accepted, TCLB will indicate why. If the property is still available, you will have the opportunity to submit an amended application.
What happens next if my application is accepted by the Board of Directors?
After your application is accepted by the TCLB Board of Directors, an Agreement of Sale will be executed, including the terms outlined in your Work Plan and (if applicable) your Rental Management Plan.
The Agreement of Sale may also include an enforcement mortgage, which enables TCLB to ensure the rehabilitation plan is completed per the terms in the Agreement of Sale. Once a final inspection of all property renovations verifies that the terms of the Agreement of Sale are met, TCLB will remove the enforcement mortgage.
What are your applicant eligibility requirements?
TCLB sells properties to individuals, businesses, nonprofits, landlords, and developers. Applicants must demonstrate secured funding to purchase properties and make any required repairs. This financial capacity can be demonstrated with cash in hand, pre-qualification for a loan, or other proof of financing. Applicants are responsible for securing their own financing; Tri-COG Land Bank does not provide any mortgages or loans.
Applicants are screened to ensure they do not own any properties with code violations or tax delinquencies. Out-of-state buyers are eligible to purchase TCLB properties, but like all of our applicants, they must first visit the property and develop a property management plan as part of their application.
A full list of applicant eligibility requirements can be found here.
Are prices negotiable?
Yes, prices are negotiable. Although offer amount is an important aspect of the application, we also consider other factors such as the proposed property use and redevelopment/rehabilitation plan (if applicable). The highest offer amount does not guarantee the transfer of a property and submitting an application does not guarantee approval to purchase a property. Once an application is finalized and accepted by TCLB, TCLB will not re-negotiate the terms of the price or the work plan.
Can I purchase multiple properties at once?
In most instances, you may only purchase one TCLB property at a time. Applications to purchase additional properties from the TCLB will only be considered after the final inspection of a previously purchased property has been completed and all work is found to be satisfactory.
Exceptions to this policy may be made on a case by case basis by the Board of Directors to applicants and nonprofit applicants who have successfully demonstrated their ability to manage and rehabilitate multiple properties at once.
Do all of your properties require renovations?
Most of the properties sold by TCLB will require some renovations. Our properties are sold in “AS-IS” condition and no warranties are made regarding property condition. The applicant assumes all responsibility to investigate the property and consider the improvements and cost of improvements in their application. After an application is submitted and approved, there will be no negotiations on offer amount nor contingencies related to property condition. TCLB encourages interested purchasers to engage a contractor or inspector to evaluate the property prior to submitting an application. No further inspections will be permitted after an application is approved.
How will I know if a property is listed for sale?
TCLB maintains a list of all properties it owns and those that are available for sale on its website. You may also sign up for our email list at the bottom of the page to be notified when new properties become available.
Community Members, Municipal Staff, and Elected Officials
How can a land bank help my community?
In 2012, Pennsylvania passed the PA Land Bank Act, allowing land banks to form and granting them special abilities to overcome common barriers that stop abandoned properties from getting back on the market. Working with a land bank can make it easier to acquire blighted properties, clear their title, and sell them to a new owner. Through thoughtful disposition policies, land banks can also help to prevent gentrification and ensure that property investors do not leave their buildings vacant or allow them to continue to deteriorate. This gives the community more control over how their neighborhoods develop and helps ensure that properties will not fall back into decline. From creating new business investment sites to catalyzing community greening projects, land banks play a key role in imagining new possibilities for empty buildings, lots, and houses.
How can my community join TCLB?
Becoming a member enables us to operate within your municipality and school district, putting abandoned properties back on the tax rolls and saving public costs in code enforcement, public safety, and other municipal services. For a municipality to become a member of TCLB, the corresponding school district must also join. We can operate anywhere in Allegheny County outside of the City of Pittsburgh, which has its own land bank.
TCLB members help facilitate the recovery of vacant properties by agreeing to discharge taxes and other public liens on the properties TCLB acquires. Membership requirements also include an annual contribution and remittance of 50% of the taxes on TCLB properties for the first five years after they are sold to a new owner. This helps ensure that the land bank remains sustainable and can invest membership contributions back into the community by acquiring and maintaining more properties.
To join TCLB, municipalities and school districts should submit a written request to be approved by the TCLB Board of Directors. Voting for new membership will take place prior to the second quarter of each calendar year.
For more information, please contact the TCLB.
There is a deteriorating property in my neighborhood. Can you help?
The first step is to confirm that your municipalitiy is a member of TCLB and check with them to see if they already have a plan for that property. After that, you can fill out a Property Recommendation Form and we will consider the property in our next acquisition round.
Every spring and fall, we accept recommendations from our members and neighbors suggesting abandoned properties for us to look into acquiring. We have a set budget for acquiring properties every year. To determine how to best use that budget to make the biggest impact, condition of the neighborhood, proximity to amenities, and visibility within the community are all considered when making our decision.
One of the houses on my block has a TCLB yard sign. Are you taking care of it now?
Yes. As soon as we buy a property, we visit it, secure it, and continue to monitor it on a regular basis. We also schedule regular maintenance services like grass cutting and snow shoveling. If you live near a TCLB property that is behind on exterior maintenance, please let us know and we will follow up with our contractors.
Every TCLB property will ultimately be sold to a new owner, but there is a lot we need to do to get it ready for sale. Many properties have trash and debris left inside that need to be removed before we can schedule any showings. Addtionally, we are commited to selling all of our properties with a clear title, which means that new owners can purchase title insurance and will not be held liable for the unpaid debts and taxes of previous owners. To clear the title, we pursue a legal process called Quiet Title Action that can take up to a year. Once the title is clear and property is cleaned out, we will officially list it for sale and begin to show it to prospective buyers.
I live across the street from a vacant lot. Can I be considered for the Side Lot Development program?
Currently only adjacent properties are eligible for the Side Lot Development program, so that the vacant lot can become an extension of the neighbor’s yard. You can learn more about our Side Lot Development program here.
How do you acquire properties?
Our most common method for acquiring properties is tax foreclosure at Sheriff Sale. We also welcome the donation of properties when a beneficial reuse can be determined. We only acquire vacant properties, and we will not move forward without approval from the municipality and school district where each property is located. Additionally, land banks do not have the authority to exercise eminent domain on property in Pennsylvania.
When selecting properties to acquire, TCLB gathers recommendations from our members and uses an objective scoring process to determine where we can make the greatest impact. This scoring process accounts for factors like condition of the neighborhood, proximity to amenities, and visibility within the community. Using these scores, TCLB staff present acquisition recommendations to the Board of Directors for approval.
What is your structure? Are you part of the government?
TCLB is a public body and a body corporate and politic organized under the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act, and we are also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We work closely with government officials in each of our member communities, to assist them in working toward their community strategies and goals to address blight. Our governance structure maximizes input from local representatives and community members, with a Board of Directors comprised of:
- One appointed representative from Allegheny County
- Two representatives from member municipalities
- Two representatives from member school districts
- Three qualified professionals from relevant fields (real estate, city planning, etc.)
- One resident of a member community
Additionally, each TCLB member appoints two representatives to the TCLB Advisory Committee, which helps identify properties to buy and sell, appoints certain members of the Board of Directors, and ensures the land bank is achieving its mission and strengthening the region as a whole.
Is a land bank the same thing as a land trust?
Land banks and land trusts can work together to accomplish shared goals, but they are not the same thing. Land banks focus specifically on blight remediation, and they do not aim to retain ownership of property for an extended period of time. Alternatively, land trusts own land in perpetuity while selling or leasing the structure on top of the land to achieve community goals like affordable housing development.
Through partnerships, land banks and land trusts can be complementary, with land banks helping to identify and acquire abandoned properties that land trusts can turn into perpetually affordable housing opportunities for local community members. As one example of this, TCLB is currently working with the City of Bridges Community Land Trust to expand affordable housing options in Etna, Millvale, and Sharpsburg.
For more information about the differences between land banks and land trusts and how they can work together, please see this article from Shelterforce.